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June 2006

EPA partners with National Park Service to promote recycling

Following a successful beverage container recycling pilot project held at the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, DC during the recent Cherry Blossom Festival, the National Park Service (NPS) plans for the fourth year to promote recycling for the upcoming July 4 celebrations at the nation’s capital.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and NPS teamed up for the National Cherry Blossom Festival that was held over three consecutive weekends between March 25 and April 9. More than 20,000 aluminum cans, plastic beverage bottles and glass containers and cardboard were collected at recycling bins placed within the mall.

“It is likely that most of the beverage containers collected during the festival would have been discarded,” said Susan Bodine, the EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.

Teams of volunteers from the EPA and other organization from the Washington, DC area were on hand to encourage recycling amongst the visitors and provide answers to questions about how people can effectively recycle on a daily basis. This included Bodine and her two sons, who she says were very enthusiastic about getting people to recycle.

“It was very successful and people were happy with the opportunity to recycle instead of throwing away their containers,” said Bodine. “Park Service officials have existing contacts with recycling and manufacturing companies and established the recycling chain for that one-time event.”

The EPA is looking to expand recycling at other public festivals.

The genesis for the Cherry Blossom Festival initiative was based on a pilot project held at the Pro Bowl on February 12 at Hawaii’s Aloha Stadium in which the EPA partnered with the National Football League and five other groups to recycle beverage containers.

Bags labeled “Be a Pro, Recycle Before You Go” were distributed to patrons, with the proceeds from the collection donated to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hawaii.

The recycling project launched the EPA’s Recycle on the Go initiative, which encourages people to seek more opportunities to recycle, especially when they are away from their homes or workplaces.

The key to successful recycling is based on a successful economic model, and in the case of the two pilot projects, industry partners came on board. In Hawaii, Honolulu Recovery donated use of a recycling collection container and hauling services and the Aluminum Association and the Association of Post Consumer Plastic Recyclables provided the collection bags.

“We have been contacted by other teams,” said Bodine. “Right now we are in discussions with Major League Baseball about doing something at the All-Star Game. These pilot projects build on themselves.”

The EPA is working toward a goal of a 35 percent recycling rate nationwide.

“We are trying to promote recycling everywhere and to help create opportunities for recycling, wherever they happen to be,” said Bodine. “We’re working on increasing the percentage of municipal solid waste that is recycled and are working very closely with communities, creating markets through our WasteWise, GreenScapes and Plug-In To eCycling programs, for example.”

The American Garbage Association (AGA) recently briefed the EPA on its Recycle It Now campaign, which features containers that are shaped like bottles.

“They found that they get less trash in these containers than with regular recycling containers,” said Bodine.

For groups who may want to organize recycling events, the EPA has a checklist on its “Recycle On The Go” website on how to set up a recycling collection, as well as links to materials prepared by other entities. This includes a guide produced by a non-profit group in Oregon on how to recycle at public events. For more information, visit

The EPA hopes that recycling projects such as the Cherry Blossom Festival and the Pro Bowl will provide useful data showing that recycling at public venues and events is both viable and popular.

“We are working with industry on the market side,” said Bodine. “Through our Waste Wise initiative, we’re working to build markets for recycled materials. We’re in the middle providing the data, information and bringing people together.”

While the EPA does provide some grants to set up some recycling programs, Bodine says it’s more effective to work with local government, the public, venue owners and managers, event planners, local governments, recycling industry, manufacturers, retailers and others to set up long-term sustainable programs.

“You really have to work with institutions,” she said. “Funding a pilot project means you have a recycling program that lasts only as long as the pilot lasts. Pilots show the value of recycling – that it makes sense, saves energy and money and conserves resource. The money spent on pilot projects ultimately leads to market development, which promotes recycling and makes it cost effective.”

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